If only there was an simple answer to this question! The reality is that there are multiple important players in every surrogacy match. Your needs and preferences, along with those of the intended parents, must be considered throughout the surrogacy process. As we consider the possibilities, it’s helpful to categorize the different types of decisions that arise in regard to pregnancy care.
Certain decisions that are considered vitally important to the general health and well being of you and the baby will be addressed during your initial match meeting with your intended parents. Examples of such decisions may include choice of healthcare provider, whether you agree to terminate a pregnancy in the event of a baby’s life-altering medical condition, the preferred type of delivery, and where the baby will be born.
Many of the more critical decisions will also be outlined in your legal contract, making it clear that everyone agrees on these items. Discussing and documenting decisions early in the process helps to a. confirm that your values align with those of your intended parents, and b. prevent unnecessary conflict and discord during the actual pregnancy.
If have strong feelings about these or other issues that will definitely arise during your surrogate pregnancy, be sure to share them early in the process.
Once you are seeing your OB for regular prenatal care, medical decisions will mostly be dictated by your doctor’s orders. In the event that either you or your intended parents do not agree with his/her orders, you are free to seek a second opinion, and to discuss that and other options with your ConceiveAbilities Match Manager as well.
Although some intended parents request certain dietary modifications during pregnancy, there is no set “required” diet during pregnancy. In general, a surrogate is trusted to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that provides adequate nutrients for herself and also for the developing baby. Most fertility clinics and OBs will also provide nutritional recommendations that offer helpful guidelines on how to ensure that your diet is appropriately healthy. It’s a good idea to try to follow these recommendations whenever possible.
Meanwhile, if your intended parents do have additional dietary requests for you, those will need to be discussed and agreed upon by all.
During their own pregnancies, women tend to adapt their lifestyles as they see fit – the goal, of course to grow a healthy baby. You may have consumed small amounts of caffeine daily while you were pregnant, worked out 4-5 times per week during the second trimester, dyed your hair several times, ate occasional fast food or a vegan diet, worked 50 hours per week, or traveled frequently. Or maybe you did none of these things, but you made other choices that would be very different from what your intended parents would choose for themselves.
The point is that while some intended parents may not voice any concerns about your lifestyle choices (as long as you are clearly keeping their baby safe and following doctor’s orders), others may share their worries or preferences with you.
Often, but not always, if a particular lifestyle choice (like eating organic, for instance) is a “hot-button” issue for intended parents, they will mention it to our matching experts in advance of your match. Then, the topic is likely to come up again during the match meeting. This is ideal, because it gives all of you the opportunity to talk openly about realistic expectations of each other, the lifestyle modifications you may be willing to make during your surrogate pregnancy, and the type of support (financial or otherwise) that you may need from the intended parents. The final details might also be included in your legal contract.
Sometimes, though, concerns or differences in opinion appear later, during the actual pregnancy. Intended parents may make a direct request to you to start or stop a particular behavior (like eating more veggies or working lots of overtime, for example), or they may go to your Match Manager to ask about the best way to share their request with you. If this happens, know that this is normal and a resolution can always be reached.
Ultimately, since surrogacy is a team effort, important lifestyle decisions during pregnancy are often made collaboratively, through honest and respectful communication that includes lots of empathy, too. This helps to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Intended parents develop a better understanding of your preferences, daily routines, past history and habits, family circumstances, and motivation to take good care of their baby. In turn, you begin to understand that special requests by the intended parents are related to their concern for the healthy growth and development of their baby - and quite possibly related to their lack of control in such an intense process. With mutual understanding and compromise, everyone is typically content with a surrogate’s lifestyle choices.
If you are in a committed relationship with an intimate partner during your pregnancy, your partner definitely needs to be involved. Not only will he/she provide critical support to you throughout your surrogacy; some of your partner’s lifestyle choices will also need to be considered. For instance, partner habits like smoking, vaping, using street drugs, or having more than one sexual partner can adversely impact you and the baby during your pregnancy.
Keep in mind that a supportive partner will be a huge help to you, and can even have a positive impact on your own lifestyle choices! After all, who couldn’t use a loving parter with whom to eat healthier, sleep more, and share household responsibilities?
As a ConceiveAbilities surrogate, you will always have support from your Match Manager, your support group leader, and your fellow surrogates. While the agency does need to remain neutral and respectful, advocating for the needs of all parties, we absolutely listen to your concerns and help you to address any issues that arise during your pregnancy.
This support may include one-on-one phone conversations, email exchanges, facilitated group video or conference calls with your intended parents, and/or focused support group conversations. In other words, we are here for you - listening to you, valuing your input, respecting your needs, and empowering you to advocate for yourself, while also preserving your relationship with your intended parents.
Even though you won’t be pregnant with your own baby this time around, and other people will be equally or even more invested in the outcome, your goal will still be the same - to make decisions and form habits that work for you but also serve the best interests of the baby you are growing and nurturing. Your ConceiveAbilities team will be available for you in the meantime, walking alongside you on every step of this unique and exciting journey!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.